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12. Syphilis: From the "Great Pox" to the Modern Version

Epidemics in Western Society Since 1600 (HIST 234) There is a longstanding debate over the origins of syphilis, in which arguments over how the disease arrived in Europe have historically been linked to racist and xenophobic ideologies as well as to scientific and historical research. Whatever its provenance, the major syphilis epidemic of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries spread in the train of war, alongside Charles VIII of France's armies. Syphilis was distinguished both by its catholicity, targeting kings as well as paupers, and its mode of transmission. The disease's evident contagiousness served both as grist for a religious interpretation, emphasizing asceticism and divine punishment, and as a major challenge to the humoral theory of disease. 00:00 - Chapter 1. Comparative Questions about Diseases 12:37 - Chapter 2. Syphilis: Background 17:30 - Chapter 3. Origins 29:16 - Chapter 4. Etiology and Symptomatology 36:15 - Chapter 5. Societal Effects Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: This course was recorded in Spring 2010.
Length: 49:18


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